Today we come to the main points of Jonah. This book is, after all, not primarily a fish tale--though we tend to fixate on that from the time we are children. The points of the book are the graciousness and compassion of God toward all people / nations / races and the promise of forgiveness toward those who repent of their sins and turn to God in humble trust. Jonah is comically tragic insofar as he cannot bear to accept God's mercy toward the Ninevites when they repent of their evil ways. After all these foreigners were obviously not the chosen people of God--why on earth would he show compassion and mercy to them? How unfair?
The grace of God is truly outrageous...or so we sometimes think! Sadly, Jonah's response is not unlike many in the church today who cannot fathom the forgiveness of God toward those "others" who repent and turn to him in contrition. Let our attitude not be like Jonah's!
"Study here 'the goodness and severity of God.' To those who persist in disobedience to his gracious purpose, severity; but to those who are penitent and willing to do better, a merciful redemption which saves even unto the uttermost all those who put their trust in hi. That is the message of the book of Jonah" (Charles Brown, "What Jonah Did").
Jesus' words in verse 33 and following are doubtless familiar to all, but what exactly to they mean? How can we have a light that is 'bad' or 'darkness'? Drawing on Symeon the New Theologian, who wrote at end of the 10th and beginning of the 11th centuries, the good light, quite simply, is Christ. Those who have Christ's light shining in them are said to "have the mind of Christ." On the contrary, those whose minds are filled with evil and sin are said to be "darkened and extinguished."
"We say, 'See to it, brothers, that while we seem to be in God and think that we have communion with him we should not be found excluded and separated from him, since we do not now see his light.' If that light had kindled our lamps, that is, our souls, it would shine brightly in us" (Symeon the New Theologian, Discourses 33.2).
May the good light of Christ shine brightly in us all, illuminating a dark and dying world!